February 6, 2008
The FIrst Country Star
Vernon Dalhart (1881-1948)was the first star of country music although he began his musical career in opera with appearances in New York productions of Girls of the Golden West, HMS Pinnafore and Madame Butterfly. He made his first recordings for Edison in 1911, but his recordings of "Wreck of the Old 97" and "Prisoner's Song" for Victor in 1924 became the biggest selling records up to that time, with sales eventually amounting to 25 million according to some estimates. He subsequently recorded on virtually every American label. It is estimated that Dalhart had 5,000 releases covering 1,000 songs, under as many as 135 pseudonyms. The recordings in this collection are a nice sampling of the country phase of Dalhart's career. On his early country recordings, Dalhart was usually accompanied on guitar and sometimes vocally by Carson Robison, a prolific songwriter who supplied Dalhart with many hits. In 1928 Robison left Dalhart and teamed up with Frank Luther. The recording of "When Your Hair has Turned to Silver" is not by Vernon Dalhart, who never recorded the song, according to Robert Olsen's discography in Jack Palmer's biography of Dalhart. I suspect it is a recording by Frank Luther and Carson Robison made for the Crown-related labels in January-February 1931.